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Good post and nice list. I wonder though about the comment on Emerson and Thoreau. Perhaps you meant that although *they were trying (sometimes desperately) not to be European*, they failed. But to suggest that *they were trying to be European* is to miss what is best in them, or so I think. Consider, just as one important case-in-point, Emerson's "The American Scholar". "We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe."

I've read a lot of your list, but got a pretty good education in America from Louis L'Amour. I was a big fan of his once upon a time, including his poetry and a book of photography of the American wilderness he co-authored. A fine American writer. I wish I hadn't gotten rid of all the novels in one of my moves.

As was implicit in my earlier comment, I really don't give two figs about "autonomy" or "independence". And missionary intent is what I was driving at in the earlier comment when I spoke of "an attitude of spiritual responsibility for our nation and people".

Bravo, Christopher, bravo -- just as long as "missionary intent" does not include the desultory (but patently American) insistence on autonomy.

"Missionary intent" is a better agenda than gussying up of ourselves as the next plate on the exotic smörgåsbord.

"My concern ... was for the missionary Orthodox ... to understand the people and the land"

Well put, Father.

But it should not be so very hard to do so, should it? The Orthodox have been here for over 200 years now, and still you can say (with perfect truth) "I would dare say, folks, that this has not happened yet". But it did not take St Innocent 200 years to understand the Aleut, their ways, and their land. He was able not only to master their language and translate the New Testament and the Liturgy, but also to understand their culture and their pagan theology deeply enough to find such common ground with Christianity as there was in it, and to present the Gospel to them in terms that they could understand and embrace.

Of course, he was after all a man of towering intellect and (more to the point) a saint; and I am sure that what Orthodoxy needs above all else is for God to raise up missionary saints. But I think the difference between St Innocent and contemporary Orthodox is neither his great intellect nor his obvious personal sanctity, but simply his intent: he came to America *to be a missionary*.

I do not see this missionary intent in contemporary Orthodoxy. My experience of American Orthodoxy (which, while admittedly not current, is extensive) is that Orthodox view their faith as something "for us" rather than "for all" (even in "mission" parishes with lots of converts).

I think if that attitude changes, the "understanding of the people and of the land" will quickly and surely follow.

Buried, Jack, but not dead -- buried by evolutionary industrial madness.

I've learned, once again, that list-making is a perilous task. And I'm such a slow learner that I'll forget my lesson and do it again sometime.

I like Shelby Foote, of course Peter. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't gotten around to reading much, if any, of Bellow -- despite his association with Owen Barfield.

"The Searchers" is definitely something to watch, though I'm not a teacher who shows movies, and I've always harbored suspicions of those who do. Jazz, James, is one half of the love/hate relationship I'm in, vacillating by the day and the disc -- complicating the scenario are the dyspeptic words by Richard Weaver on jazz in "Ideas Have Consequences."

Far be it from me to say anything less than encomious about Rich Mullins. My concern, Kyralessa, was not for being "American at heart," or even "being" American. It was for the missionary Orthodox who held in their hearts the Apostolic Faith, who brought the Holy Mysteries, and who also brought the ways of true prayer and belief. It was for them, in turn, to understand the people and the land -- not to "become" it (as did, arguably, the protestants), but to lead America in becoming what God wanted it to be -- Spirit-filled, Christlike.

I would dare say, folks, that this has not happened yet, no?

I'm fairly certain that the America you describe died quite a long long time ago, which is a signficant part of the reason why Americans are embracing Orthodoxy. In that regard, Melville and Hawthorne are probably the only "necessary" books on your list. America moves pretty quickly from a City on a Hill to Bartleby the Scrivener to Star Wars.

Two more thought for you, Father, this time on the supra-literary themes you note:

1) You mention children learning English beneath the shadow of Lady Liberty. This seems to be your one nod to the rise of urban America, so might I suggest a literary number by Saul Bellow? I'm thinking of 'Herzog' - but perhaps, if the flavor is all, 'Seize the Day' will do.

2) You also mention the Civil War, for which I am grateful. Perhaps you might push Shelby Foote (Aside: he was a dear friend of Walker Percy) and his narrative history of the war. Or again, if you're simply after a flavor or scent, you might lead a field trip of young seminarians to the battlefield at Gettysburg.

Both of these notions beg the question of whether literature is, after all, what you're really up to with your list, Father. How might you check off these last redolent themes of yours?

Good books. Good music. I think we're missing some jazz and some films as well. Jazz - I'd add classic "hot" jazz - which could come from anywhere. I'd feel free to include Swing as well (Benny Goodman or similar). You could add a musical or two - anything from the Music Man or any other classic. Films - I'd add Glenn Ford's "The Searchers" (John Wayne) or "Red River"... two classic's of the American spirit.

My generation is younger than all of these... but I think of the classic period of American culture's upbeat mood... or its propensity for granting second chances and these capture it in ways today's darker moods do not.

IMHO, at least one non-fiction book needs to be mentioned here:

"Habits of the Heart" by Robert Bellah, et. al.

Given that I don't much care for anything on that list (Copland being the major exception), I guess I must never have been an American at heart, despite being born here. Ah, well, Rich Mullins said it best: "So I'll call you my country, but I'll be lonely for my home..."

Why, errrr, yes. We don't want to confuse the composer with Kenneth, don't we?

I assume that everyone means Copland here.

Thanks, Barbara, for jogging my memory with "Little House in the Big Woods" and "O Pioneers." The former is an especial favorite, I'm not ashamed to say (but I always wondered if there were nefarious reasons that prompted Pa Ingalls' peregrinations, especially moving away from the idyllic setting of the first book).

Cather is hardly surprising as a candidate, since she moved to Pittsburgh and did a shop-smashing on Christian Science: handy work, that.

Peter, you hit the nail square on the head with "a national character whose waters run broader and deeper than we may perceive." I don't know about the word "reconcile," though, since that term assumes a relationship that never was.

Father, thank you for your response.

I've one more thought for you. You write that American Orthodox don't really understand America and, in their ignorance, often attempt to adopt the folkways of old-world Orthodox.

In this you seem to imply not simply an ignorance but a distaste -- what in a convert like myself could only be described as a nascent self-loathing.

If so, then perhaps what you're descrying in our convert Orthodoxy is a species of what one of my college teachers called a long-running 'hatred of the bourgeois' -- a hatred that is endemic to the modern world and which is discernible in Western literature at least as far back as the Romantic movement.

Is there a sense in which you recommend your list not simply in order to instruct American Orthodox in what you call 'mythic America' but also to reconcile us to a national character whose waters run broader and deeper than we may perceive.

There is a certain sublimity to the information patterns of a free market, free expression, and social mobility, just as there is in the Biblical eagle, serpent, and triumphing husband (Prov. 30:18-19).

I don't have a text recommendation at hand, but you could include something that demonstrates the economic and transactional equality of the assumptions underlying this country, under God. Examples might be The Little House on the Prairie series (not high literature), or certain Willa Cather novels. The small group or the individual (not the tribe -- parishes are counted in "families") confronting the near limitless land, and seeking to put his human life on the track to the Meaning found in God.

Dismissing and avoiding this issue is one of the "put[ting] on Eastern European airs" that converts may embrace. "Former fundamentalists who read the Bible and the Fathers, who fast and pray, and who cleave to the Holy Mysteries" bring and will bring this understanding in their bones, and suffer both puzzlement from the immigrant Orthodox, and outright hostility from converts who prefer to leave America elsewhere.

I ask prayers for my own repentance to prepare the ground and hasten the time in some small way "when real Orthodoxy meets real America." No premature towers constructed at Home Depot!

This is purely a private opinion, a matter of theologoumena if you will. I think that there will be no jurisdictional unity -- i.e., a single American archdiocese or patriarchate -- until, as I've said, American Orthodox understand and practice Orthodoxy, not just another offering on the religio-smorgasbord; and until Orthodox Americans understand America.

The last point needs a bit more work, as you've pointed out. I do not suggest that my little bookshelf be inserted into OCA church basements. I do suggest, however, that OCA (and everyone else) people read America -- the mythic (do not read "untrue") America beyond the USA.

I think that a thoroughly indigenous American Church will coalesce (by Providence) when real Orthodoxy meets real America. This has not happened yet. God will frustrate every attempt at Tower building until then.

You might turn out to be prophetic, Peter, in that Christ the Saviour Seminary might do exactly that: build a class or two on America as Cyril and Methodios might have dealt with her.

Postman, I'm glad you've added Faulkner but disappointed that I've not read 'Big Stories.' But I've flushed you out: What precisely do you mean by, 'there will be no jurisdictional unity in America until Orthodoxy understands the land.' I confess that what you recommend resonates with me, but I don't understand.... You seem to be saying that American Orthodox need not simply to 'understand' America but somehow also to live more deeply their American birthright. I'd appreciate very much if you'd elaborate. More Tom Sawyer, you say, and less, what, Raskolnikov? Furthermore, while as a lover of literature I am drawn to your list both as a source of delight and insofar as you recommend it as a precis of the American soul. Yet what practical place might such a list play in the formation of American Orthodox? On the one hand it's obviously a bit much to imagine your local OCA parish priest adding these books to a list that already includes Schmemman, Hopko, et al; yet I suppose it's not so far fetched to see a class or two built around these books popping up in American seminaries. But what say you?

How right you are, Peter. How about "Big Woods: the Hunting Stories"?

I am fond of the image of being wrapped in a rug, atop the camp wagon as it lumbers into the old big woods, where the bear still lives, still threatening us small hairless bipeds with what is still wild, dangerous, and reminds us what men should be: brave, warm hearted, traditional, "askeer'd" of the woods but drawn there with cords of the ages.

So we'll go with "Big Woods," and leave off "The Sound and the Fury," even though the latter does not signify nothing.

Sorry 'bout that, couldn't resist.

Postman, you mention 'hunters in Faulkner's big woods' yet recommend no Faulkner. Surely he is not too European-by-half to provide us a a valuable aperture into our souls?

If you don't mind, Christopher, I'd rather not deal with the issue of canonical unity yet. It's too early (in the day, and in my age) for me to even suggest a way of out this morass.

I do entertain hope, however, that we can experience a practical unity even now. There is no impediment to me serving in a whole spectrum of various jurisdictions, as there should be no jurisdictional esoterica preventing you from receiving the Eucharist in any parish.

It is sin that separates the brethren. It is the Lord, not churchmanship, that marries.

This is an outstanding list. I am ashamed to say that I have not read all of them, and those that I have read, I read when I was a child (long, long ago).

I must differ with you a little bit, however, about "American Orthodoxy". You are probably right that "independence," but canonical unity and independence do not have to go together. It is not that there are two choices: jurisdictionalism or independence; there are, instead, three: jurisdictionalism, independence, or canonical unity under the omophor of a single autocephalous Church in the Old World. This third choice is what American Orthodoxy was before the Bolshevik Revolution. All Orthodox in America, whatever their ethnicity, were part of the Church of Russia.

I think that canonical unity, along with an attitude of spiritual responsibility for our nation and people, is actually quite important. But "independence" as such is only a means to those ends; and not, in my view, an indispensable means.

You're right. I forgot "Appalachian Spring" by Copeland. No, I'm not substituting "Lord Jim" for "Moby Dick" -- there are many reasons for retaining the latter. A very small one is that Ahab is American, Jim is not.

I'm all for more Hawthorne: "House of the Seven Gables" would be my choice for an additional entry, not "The Scarlett Letter." While I think that the latter is Hawthorne's finest, it is not the best for this particular list: a reading list for Orthodox Christians trying to figure out mythic America (not the demographically defined one).

Thanks, Meg, for your thoughts.

*Moby Dick*?!?!?! Are you trying to educate people, or torture them?!

Also, have you ever read anything by Kenneth Roberts? And where's Washington Irving? And I'd recommend a lot more by Nathaniel Hawthorne. What about the poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier? I'm curious, also, about substituting "Lord Jim" for "Moby Dick." I found "Lord Jim" much more interesting, with the added fillip that it was written by an immigrant who taught himself English -- he did some job!

And if you *really* want to get into American culture, there's nothing like the music of Aaron Copeland for that. I defy anyone to listen to "Rodeo" or "Appalachian Spring" and not grasp *something* of the American ethos.

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